Commentary Magazine


Topic: Solyndra

Obama’s Hypocritical Access Sale

To say that Barack Obama has never practiced what he preached about campaign finance reform is the understatement of the century. The president rode to office and then was re-elected with the help of a massive influx of private cash, all the while saying that money was the root of all political evil. He routinely denounces the wealthy and the influence of big business while taking their money and selling access to the White House to the same Wall Street moguls to whom he accuses Republicans of being in thrall.

Even when practiced at such Olympian levels, hypocrisy is not against the law. Thus the news that a new pro-Obama 501(c)(4), organized by the rump of the Obama re-election campaign, is gearing up to not only advocate for the president’s policies but to reward donors with access to the White House and the president himself is not so much a question of legality but a matter of setting a new low in ethical standards. As even the New York Times noted in an article published this weekend, the access sale being conducted by the president’s Organizing for Action group crosses a line that most groups that similarly label themselves as educational rather than political don’t:

Giving or raising $500,000 or more puts donors on a national advisory board for Mr. Obama’s group and the privilege of attending quarterly meetings with the president, along with other meetings at the White House. Moreover, the new cash demands on Mr. Obama’s top donors and bundlers come as many of them are angling for appointments to administration jobs or ambassadorships. …

Many traditional advocacy organizations, including the Sierra Club and the National Rifle Association, are set up as social welfare groups, or 501(c)(4)’s in tax parlance. But unlike those groups, Organizing for Action appears to be an extension of the administration, stocked with alumni of Mr. Obama’s White House and campaign teams and devoted solely to the president’s second-term agenda.

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To say that Barack Obama has never practiced what he preached about campaign finance reform is the understatement of the century. The president rode to office and then was re-elected with the help of a massive influx of private cash, all the while saying that money was the root of all political evil. He routinely denounces the wealthy and the influence of big business while taking their money and selling access to the White House to the same Wall Street moguls to whom he accuses Republicans of being in thrall.

Even when practiced at such Olympian levels, hypocrisy is not against the law. Thus the news that a new pro-Obama 501(c)(4), organized by the rump of the Obama re-election campaign, is gearing up to not only advocate for the president’s policies but to reward donors with access to the White House and the president himself is not so much a question of legality but a matter of setting a new low in ethical standards. As even the New York Times noted in an article published this weekend, the access sale being conducted by the president’s Organizing for Action group crosses a line that most groups that similarly label themselves as educational rather than political don’t:

Giving or raising $500,000 or more puts donors on a national advisory board for Mr. Obama’s group and the privilege of attending quarterly meetings with the president, along with other meetings at the White House. Moreover, the new cash demands on Mr. Obama’s top donors and bundlers come as many of them are angling for appointments to administration jobs or ambassadorships. …

Many traditional advocacy organizations, including the Sierra Club and the National Rifle Association, are set up as social welfare groups, or 501(c)(4)’s in tax parlance. But unlike those groups, Organizing for Action appears to be an extension of the administration, stocked with alumni of Mr. Obama’s White House and campaign teams and devoted solely to the president’s second-term agenda.

The intermingling of money and power is nothing new. Indeed, the myth that campaign finance reform laws can eliminate this nexus is itself a problem because it has led to more and more such legislation that has only made the problem worse, as donations have become less accountable and transparent.

They hypocrisy of a president and an administration that continues to portray itself as being as pure as the driven snow is bad enough. The stench of this sort of brazen behavior ought to shock both the press and the public, but the double standard by which the president always seems to be given a pass for everything he does seems to apply to this as well.

But the problem with selling access to this particular White House is that for all of its high-flown rhetoric about ethics, it seems as malleable to the whims of big contributors as any of its less highly regarded predecessors. A quick look at the list of companies that benefited from the president’s first-term stimulus boondoggle reveals a roster of Obama campaign contributors. We should expect that this latest example of administration venality would increase the number of Solyndra-style “investments” by the Treasury.

This is not the first White House for sale, as both Republicans and Democrats have often played the same game. But the industrial level of this kind of access sale makes the use of the Lincoln Bedroom in the White House as a motel for Democratic cash cows and celebrity donors by the Clintons look tame.

The solution to this sort of thing is not more laws that will only create ever more subterfuges and even less accountability, just as past efforts have done. What is needed is a vigorous press keeping close watch on the administration and prepared to treat future Solyndra-type scandals as major stories–as they would were George W. Bush playing such a cynical game–rather than footnotes. But given the president’s ability to play puppet master to the press, that is about as likely to happen as Laura Bush being asked to announce the Best Picture Oscar.

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Did the GOP Really Leave Gary Johnson?

When libertarians (and Libertarians) object that despite the popularity of some of their causes they are not taken seriously as a voting constituency by the two major American parties, it’s easy to see where they’re coming from. Republicans and Democrats seem to hate the TSA’s invasive and pervasive screening process; opposition to the drug war is growing in both camps; and the popularity of gay marriage on the left and opposition to Obamacare on the right would seem to remind voters on both sides of the political divides of their libertarian streaks.

Yet they are unloved. Instead of finding the Koch brothers convenient allies given their social libertarianism and dedication to funding the arts, the left has turned the Kochs into the villains of the election cycle, offering some of the most ignorant and self-defeating politics of personal destruction in years. And now Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president, claims to be shut out by the GOP and feels that his voice has been trampled by Republicans who fear he could cut into Mitt Romney’s vote share in several key states. The New York Times reports:

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When libertarians (and Libertarians) object that despite the popularity of some of their causes they are not taken seriously as a voting constituency by the two major American parties, it’s easy to see where they’re coming from. Republicans and Democrats seem to hate the TSA’s invasive and pervasive screening process; opposition to the drug war is growing in both camps; and the popularity of gay marriage on the left and opposition to Obamacare on the right would seem to remind voters on both sides of the political divides of their libertarian streaks.

Yet they are unloved. Instead of finding the Koch brothers convenient allies given their social libertarianism and dedication to funding the arts, the left has turned the Kochs into the villains of the election cycle, offering some of the most ignorant and self-defeating politics of personal destruction in years. And now Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president, claims to be shut out by the GOP and feels that his voice has been trampled by Republicans who fear he could cut into Mitt Romney’s vote share in several key states. The New York Times reports:

Both sides agree that Mr. Johnson, whose pro-marijuana legalization and antiwar stances may appeal to the youth vote and whose antigovernment, anti-spending proposals may appeal to conservative fiscal hawks — and to supporters of Mr. Paul — has the potential to draw from both Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama….

The Republican efforts to impede Mr. Johnson’s candidacy have drawn charges of spying and coercion from Libertarians and countercharges from Republicans that the party had resorted to fraud while accepting secret help from Democrats.

That suggests that both sides think Johnson would hurt Romney more than Obama. Yet on the domestic front, Obama has given libertarians nothing but Obamacare-style policy and Solyndra-style crony capitalism, and on foreign affairs he has expanded virtually everything libertarians claimed to hate about George W. Bush’s national security policies. So why would Johnson cut into Romney’s vote instead of Obama’s? On paper it wouldn’t seem to make sense, until you consider the fact that Johnson actually branded himself, throughout his political career, as a Republican.

In an interview last month with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Johnson–who served as governor of New Mexico as a Republican–was asked why he left the GOP after running for president initially as a Republican. He said he was able to participate in two primary debates before the party abandoned and excluded him. He continued:

We requested of the RNC (Republican National Committee) that they step in and demand they give us a seat at the table; otherwise, the Republican Party is being dictated to by the media. The party would have nothing to do with helping me out. That was the Republican Party leaving me, not me leaving the Republican Party.

I’m sure there’s a case to be made that more than the dozen candidates invited to the debates was warranted, but is it really the Republican Party’s job to be “helping [Johnson] out”? It was no surprise that Johnson was going to run as a Libertarian candidate if he couldn’t gain traction in the GOP primaries. But there’s another Republican who is also a libertarian, but never dropped the party: Ron Paul. Paul didn’t need the GOP to be “helping [him] out”–he put in his time, over many years, as an elected Republican official, built a following, and leveraged that following into a movement that made itself heard in the party and kept Paul in the GOP primary debates through the new year and right to the end of the debate season.

Paul made a couple of strong showings in some states–mostly in caucus and open-primary states where ground game mattered and Democrats were permitted to vote in the GOP contests–and in February he joined Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum in the final four candidates’ debates. Paul was the only one on stage that remotely resembled a libertarian, and it seemed he had national appeal as well. One poll conducted by CNN in January found Paul keeping pace with Obama in a head-to-head race.

Of course, Paul had his drawbacks, notably the racist newsletters published in his name and from which he seemed to profit for many years, 9/11 truthers, and his ability to attract crackpots and Jew-baiters like moths to a flame. This earned him a weirdly crossover appeal, as his approval rating among Democrats shot up after the revelations of the racist newsletters, and his attitude toward Israel always attracted leftists and Occupy Wall Street types fretting about “Jewish bankers.”

All of this is to say that Johnson has much less baggage than Paul, but also much less of a following. That’s not really the GOP’s fault–a more libertarian candidate than Johnson was able to thrive in the GOP, and Ron Paul’s son, Rand, has quite a following as well. While the Tea Party isn’t strictly libertarian, it was an indication that libertarian distrust of big government still has a home in the GOP. Johnson’s political success has come as a Republican. He’s free to run as a Libertarian, but in doing so, he very publicly and unequivocally is leaving the GOP—the party that facilitated his political career—not the other way around.

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The Free Market Is Crushing CO2 Emissions

Anti-CO2 activists may have to find something else to give their lives meaning. The AP reports that “the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.”

So if you’ve been championing government action as the last best hope to save humankind from the big broil, you too should find a hobby: “Many of the world’s leading climate scientists didn’t see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide.”

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Anti-CO2 activists may have to find something else to give their lives meaning. The AP reports that “the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.”

So if you’ve been championing government action as the last best hope to save humankind from the big broil, you too should find a hobby: “Many of the world’s leading climate scientists didn’t see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide.”

Finally, if you think the problem has been America’s uncooperative attitude regarding international treaties, you’re wrong: “the shift from coal to gas has helped bring the U.S. closer to meeting some of the greenhouse gas targets in the 1997 Kyoto treaty on global warming, which the United States never ratified.”

It’s an amazing story, really. How did it happen? Shale gas and fracking: “A frenzy of shale gas drilling in the Northeast’s Marcellus Shale and in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana has caused the wholesale price of natural gas to plummet from $7 or $8 per unit to about $3 over the past four years, making it cheaper to burn than coal for a given amount of energy produced.”

Whether or not you think anthropogenic global warming is a real problem, it’s hard to overstate the significance of this. For years, the Inconvenient Truthers have been telling us the sky will fall unless Big Government comes in to regulate emissions on a global scale. Federally backed “green-energy” companies like Solyndra have gone bust on the taxpayer’s dime trying to combat CO2. The free market is now under perpetual attack, as a human-killing, planet-destroying profit monster that can only be fought back by a new regulatory regime. Hydraulic fracturing (the practice of freeing underground natural gas by using a mix of pressurized fluid containing water, sand, and chemicals) has come under fire from environmentalists as the energy-evil du jour. And, of course, in the supposedly “post-American” world, we are told the United States can no longer afford to look down on international agreements that would hold the behavior of Americans to the standard of some mediating body like the UN. All of it, nonsense.

No government or bureaucracy can centrally plan to accomplish what the self-interested nodes of a free-market system can. The U.S. brought down CO2 emissions without help from Washington or the United Nations. We can always raise them again by killing free-market innovation on the advice of environmentalists.

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Democrats’ Convention of Hypocrisy

The “hope and change” mantra that lifted Barack Obama to the presidency in 2008 raised unrealistic assumptions about his administration that were bound to be debunked after a few years in office. That’s why his re-election campaign strategy is based on demonizing his opponents rather than running on a record of all the “change” he effected. Yet there are some vestiges of the messianic tone of his 2008 run that remain, and one of them is a ban on corporate sponsors at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. The ban is a holdover from the rhetoric of four years ago that asserted the Obama candidacy would bring an end to the way lobbyists and big business attempt to influence politics. This was a joke even four years ago as the Democrat raked in record contributions from Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street titans and corporate giants. But the 2012 convention in Charlotte will be free of such sponsors, allowing the Democrats to claim they are faithful to their ideals.

However, as the New York Times reports today, the leading local booster and organizer of the Charlotte convention just happens to be the CEO of the nation’s largest energy company, which has been a major beneficiary of the president’s trillion-dollar stimulus boondoggle. Duke Energy CEO James E. Rogers claims that he and his company are going all out to help the Democratic jamboree as a matter of local pride. But the company’s costly contributions to the event have raised serious issues about the way it stands to benefit from Obama’s policies, making a mockery of the Democrats’ pose as the opponents of corporate influence. Rather than a tribute to the party’s stand against influence peddling, the lack of other corporate sponsors merely illustrates President Obama’s ongoing hypocrisy about big business and ethics.

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The “hope and change” mantra that lifted Barack Obama to the presidency in 2008 raised unrealistic assumptions about his administration that were bound to be debunked after a few years in office. That’s why his re-election campaign strategy is based on demonizing his opponents rather than running on a record of all the “change” he effected. Yet there are some vestiges of the messianic tone of his 2008 run that remain, and one of them is a ban on corporate sponsors at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. The ban is a holdover from the rhetoric of four years ago that asserted the Obama candidacy would bring an end to the way lobbyists and big business attempt to influence politics. This was a joke even four years ago as the Democrat raked in record contributions from Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street titans and corporate giants. But the 2012 convention in Charlotte will be free of such sponsors, allowing the Democrats to claim they are faithful to their ideals.

However, as the New York Times reports today, the leading local booster and organizer of the Charlotte convention just happens to be the CEO of the nation’s largest energy company, which has been a major beneficiary of the president’s trillion-dollar stimulus boondoggle. Duke Energy CEO James E. Rogers claims that he and his company are going all out to help the Democratic jamboree as a matter of local pride. But the company’s costly contributions to the event have raised serious issues about the way it stands to benefit from Obama’s policies, making a mockery of the Democrats’ pose as the opponents of corporate influence. Rather than a tribute to the party’s stand against influence peddling, the lack of other corporate sponsors merely illustrates President Obama’s ongoing hypocrisy about big business and ethics.

Rogers is under fire not so much for the way he has used his perch at the company to help raise money for the Democrats as the manner in which Duke Energy has donated office space and guaranteed a loan to enable the financing of the convention. While as the Times notes, the Democrats sent out a fundraising letter last year with Michelle Obama’s signature promising “a different convention for a different time,” the company’s outsized role as a sponsor combined with the fact that it received $226 million from the president’s stimulus and energy initiatives has exposed the Democrats to both mockery and legitimate complaints.

The problem here is not so much the obvious conflict of interest as Duke Energy, which stands to rake in even more presents from the government if Obama is re-elected, plays host in Charlotte. Rather it is the pretense that the Democrats are trying to cleanse the political system of the influence of money. Even many Democrats admit that it is not possible to eliminate corporate contributions to hold conventions and that the Republicans, who have no such faux restrictions, are being a lot more honest about it this year.

As President Obama has proved during his four years in office, his administration has broken new ground in crony capitalism as the stimulus and other measures poured money from government coffers into the pockets of companies like Solyndra that had a friend in the White House. It is not so much the spectacle of Democratic corruption that grates on the voters but the president’s pose of being above such petty concerns. Contrary to the way it is being sold to the public, the Democratic convention is a tribute to the venality of their candidate, not his ethics.

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Obama’s Off Key Farm Subsidies Pitch

The Obama campaign is in full attack mode this week, and President Obama’s campaign speech in Iowa today shows the level of cynicism in the Democrats’ attempt to bash Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. While stumping in the Hawkeye state, the president criticized Ryan for blocking a farm aid bill that is before the Congress and which he described as vital to helping rural communities survive both drought and an economic downturn. But does Obama really think voters are dumb enough to believe this?

The president’s Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act isn’t a legislative equivalent of a farm aid concert. It is a mini-stimulus package aimed at playing favorites in the agriculture industry and represents exactly the sort of massive government spending that both sides in last year’s budget impasse agreed could not be sustained. But the farm bill isn’t just yet another example of the Democrats’ penchant for crony capitalism; it is also an attempt to preserve farm subsidies that virtually everyone in Washington knows are an unsustainable boondoggle that represent the worst in patronage politics. Far from the president’s championing of this issue being part of a coherent plan to demonize Ryan, his backing of farm subsidies merely illustrates why Ryan’s reformist ideas are needed now more than ever.

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The Obama campaign is in full attack mode this week, and President Obama’s campaign speech in Iowa today shows the level of cynicism in the Democrats’ attempt to bash Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. While stumping in the Hawkeye state, the president criticized Ryan for blocking a farm aid bill that is before the Congress and which he described as vital to helping rural communities survive both drought and an economic downturn. But does Obama really think voters are dumb enough to believe this?

The president’s Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act isn’t a legislative equivalent of a farm aid concert. It is a mini-stimulus package aimed at playing favorites in the agriculture industry and represents exactly the sort of massive government spending that both sides in last year’s budget impasse agreed could not be sustained. But the farm bill isn’t just yet another example of the Democrats’ penchant for crony capitalism; it is also an attempt to preserve farm subsidies that virtually everyone in Washington knows are an unsustainable boondoggle that represent the worst in patronage politics. Far from the president’s championing of this issue being part of a coherent plan to demonize Ryan, his backing of farm subsidies merely illustrates why Ryan’s reformist ideas are needed now more than ever.

To highlight his supposed concern for farmers, the administration today ordered a $170 million government meat purchase aimed at appeasing voters in agricultural states and ensuring the president a warm reception in Iowa. But the issue at stake here isn’t a hard-hearted Ryan presenting an obstacle to suffering farmers as the president says but rather the shockingly cynical manner in which the Democrat seeks to buy farm votes with government largesse.

If there is anything we should have learned after a century of government spending on such farm bills it is that the results have more to do with satisfying private interests than the economic health of the nation. The subsidies are, as the Heritage Foundation rightly notes, wasteful handouts that are as unnecessary as they are corrupt.

Though he travels the nation decrying the ills of Congress, his farm bill demonstrates all that is wrong with the business as usual culture of Washington that Paul Ryan has spent his career trying to change. For decades, politicians have played Santa Claus, giving out gifts to the taxpayers. But informed citizens understand the goodies they receive from leaders like President Obama are but a fraction of the enormous wealth taken from taxpayers. The president famously said four years ago that he favored a redistribution of wealth from the rich to others less well off. But the farm bill symbolizes what he really means: a policy of taking from the middle class and giving it not to the poor but to favored special interests.

The farm bill Obama is touting isn’t so much about helping dry farms as it is about promoting the same sort of wasteful “green” expenditures that produced the Solyndra debacle. These farm subsidies were always bad policy but in an era of crushing federal debt, they are a luxury the nation can no longer afford. If Obama thinks he can win re-election by supporting a corrupt status quo, he may have offered Romney and Ryan yet another opportunity to highlight the administration’s failure to think about anything but narrow and cynical political interests.

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Emails Show Extent of Solyndra’s Government Dependence

The House Energy and Commerce Committee released some brutally damaging emails for the Obama administration this morning, showing how reliant failed solar energy company Solyndra was on the government to stay afloat toward the end. As the Washington Post reports, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget found that it would be financially safer for the government to cut its losses in Solyndra rather than green-lighting additional loans — and yet the administration continued to gamble on the flailing company:

As the Obama administration moved last year to bail out Solyndra, the embattled flagship of the president’s initiative to promote alternative energy, a White House budget analyst calculated that millions of taxpayer dollars might be saved by cutting the government’s losses, shuttering the company immediately and selling its assets, according to a congressional investigation.

Even so, senior officials in the White House’s Office of Management and Budget did not discourage the Energy Department from proceeding with its plan to restructure a federal loan to Solyndra — a move that put private investors ahead of taxpayers for repayment if the company closed, the investigation by Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee found.

The White House continues to deny there was any political favoritism involved, despite Obama’s cozy relationship with Solyndra execs and one of its main private backers, George Kaiser. But why else would the administration take such a financial risk on a likely loser, despite the findings from its own OMB? Why restructure a loan to let private investors get repaid before taxpayers? From an objective standpoint, the decision should be cut-and-dry. Even if the Obama administration didn’t care about squandering taxpayer money, you would think it would at least take it out of a high-risk investment when it had the option.

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The House Energy and Commerce Committee released some brutally damaging emails for the Obama administration this morning, showing how reliant failed solar energy company Solyndra was on the government to stay afloat toward the end. As the Washington Post reports, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget found that it would be financially safer for the government to cut its losses in Solyndra rather than green-lighting additional loans — and yet the administration continued to gamble on the flailing company:

As the Obama administration moved last year to bail out Solyndra, the embattled flagship of the president’s initiative to promote alternative energy, a White House budget analyst calculated that millions of taxpayer dollars might be saved by cutting the government’s losses, shuttering the company immediately and selling its assets, according to a congressional investigation.

Even so, senior officials in the White House’s Office of Management and Budget did not discourage the Energy Department from proceeding with its plan to restructure a federal loan to Solyndra — a move that put private investors ahead of taxpayers for repayment if the company closed, the investigation by Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee found.

The White House continues to deny there was any political favoritism involved, despite Obama’s cozy relationship with Solyndra execs and one of its main private backers, George Kaiser. But why else would the administration take such a financial risk on a likely loser, despite the findings from its own OMB? Why restructure a loan to let private investors get repaid before taxpayers? From an objective standpoint, the decision should be cut-and-dry. Even if the Obama administration didn’t care about squandering taxpayer money, you would think it would at least take it out of a high-risk investment when it had the option.

But the story gets even worse for the White House. The Washington Times reports that newly released emails also indicate that Solyndra was hoping to make the federal government its biggest customer for solar panels, in an effort to stay above water:

“Getting business from Uncle Sam is a principal element of Solyndra’s channel strategy,” one investor wrote in an email months after Mr. Obama’s May 2010 tour of the now-bankrupt company, according details of an investigative report Thursday by Republicans on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

The now bankrupt company’s founder, Chris Gronet, “spoke very openly to Obama about the need for installation of Solyndra’s rooftop solar panels on U.S. government buildings,” Tom Baruch, founder of CMEA Capital, an investor, wrote to another Solyndra official.

“I heard Obama actually promise Chris he would look into it when he got back to Washington,” the email continued.

In other words, taxpayer money was going to be used to buy unprofitable solar panels from a company that was already being kept afloat by government loans. This was a company that was never interested in standing on its own feet, and whose entire existence — past and future — was dependent on the federal government.

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Konarka Is Not Romney’s Solyndra

After trying and failing to pin the Solyndra debacle on the Bush administration, the left is trying another dubious spread-the-guilt tactic. Think Progress breathlessly reports that a solar company that Mitt Romney gave a government grant to as governor has just declared bankruptcy:

On Thursday, Mitt Romney campaigned at the headquarters of Solyndra — the first renewable energy company to receive a federal loan under the stimulus — and reiterated his debunked claims that its bankruptcy symbolized the corruption and cronyism of the Obama administration. But just one day later, a solar panel developer “that landed a state loan from Mitt Romney when he was Massachusetts governor” went belly up, the Boston Herald reports, creating an inconvenient storyline for the GOP presidential nominee.

The company, Konarka Technologies, “filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection and will cease operations, lay off its 85 workers and liquidate.”

Here’s a rundown of the case: As governor, Romney granted Konkara a $1.5 million state subsidy, about 350 times less than the half-billion dollar loan guarantee the Obama administration gave Solyndra. Konarka declared bankruptcy nearly a decade after Romney’s grant and five years after he left office, while the Obama administration’s investment tanked within two years.

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After trying and failing to pin the Solyndra debacle on the Bush administration, the left is trying another dubious spread-the-guilt tactic. Think Progress breathlessly reports that a solar company that Mitt Romney gave a government grant to as governor has just declared bankruptcy:

On Thursday, Mitt Romney campaigned at the headquarters of Solyndra — the first renewable energy company to receive a federal loan under the stimulus — and reiterated his debunked claims that its bankruptcy symbolized the corruption and cronyism of the Obama administration. But just one day later, a solar panel developer “that landed a state loan from Mitt Romney when he was Massachusetts governor” went belly up, the Boston Herald reports, creating an inconvenient storyline for the GOP presidential nominee.

The company, Konarka Technologies, “filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection and will cease operations, lay off its 85 workers and liquidate.”

Here’s a rundown of the case: As governor, Romney granted Konkara a $1.5 million state subsidy, about 350 times less than the half-billion dollar loan guarantee the Obama administration gave Solyndra. Konarka declared bankruptcy nearly a decade after Romney’s grant and five years after he left office, while the Obama administration’s investment tanked within two years.

There’s a debate to be had about whether government (either federal, or in Konkara’s case, state) should use taxpayer money to prop up individual companies, and in effect bet against others. But while that’s part of the conservative case against Solyndra, it’s not the main reason why the investment is controversial. The Obama administration’s efforts to rush through the Solyndra loan, despite red flags that the investment was rickety, smacked of crony capitalism — particularly as the largest private Solyndra money man, George Kaiser, is also a key Obama supporter.

Unless evidence surfaces that Romney had his own George Kaiser at Konkara, and that he ignored financial perils to prop up the company, the comparison is moot. The only thing the Konkara comparison shows is that the Obama campaign is petrified of the Solyndra issue, and desperate for ways to redirect attention.

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Republicans Aren’t Rolling Over

Obama chief strategist David Axelrod shouldn’t have been surprised to see that a lot of Republicans turned up at the kickoff at the Statehouse in Boston for his campaign event tearing down Mitt Romney’s record as governor of Massachusetts. Though the event was supposedly a secret, it reportedly was leaked on Twitter, and a GOP response team was quick to react. Romney supporters chanting “Solyndra” — a reference to the failed energy company that was the recipient of so much Obama administration largesse, heckled Axelrod, turning the gathering into a bipartisan shouting match rather than an Obama show. The same day, Romney staged an event at the Fremont, California headquarters of Solyndra in a carefully planned attempt to upstage the Democrat’s efforts to seize control of the news cycle.

While all of this can and should just be put down to the usual give and take of a hotly contested presidential campaign, it does show that a lot has changed since the last time Axelrod was running a national campaign. Whereas in 2008, the campaign of John McCain was clearly outmatched in terms of technology and smarts by the “hope and change” juggernaut that put Barack Obama in the White House, in 2012 the GOP is determined not to roll over for the Democrats. If today is any indication of how things will go the next five months, Axelrod is in for a long, hard slog against an opponent capable of nimbly returning serve and scoring points even on days that the Chicago campaign guru thought would belong to him.

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Obama chief strategist David Axelrod shouldn’t have been surprised to see that a lot of Republicans turned up at the kickoff at the Statehouse in Boston for his campaign event tearing down Mitt Romney’s record as governor of Massachusetts. Though the event was supposedly a secret, it reportedly was leaked on Twitter, and a GOP response team was quick to react. Romney supporters chanting “Solyndra” — a reference to the failed energy company that was the recipient of so much Obama administration largesse, heckled Axelrod, turning the gathering into a bipartisan shouting match rather than an Obama show. The same day, Romney staged an event at the Fremont, California headquarters of Solyndra in a carefully planned attempt to upstage the Democrat’s efforts to seize control of the news cycle.

While all of this can and should just be put down to the usual give and take of a hotly contested presidential campaign, it does show that a lot has changed since the last time Axelrod was running a national campaign. Whereas in 2008, the campaign of John McCain was clearly outmatched in terms of technology and smarts by the “hope and change” juggernaut that put Barack Obama in the White House, in 2012 the GOP is determined not to roll over for the Democrats. If today is any indication of how things will go the next five months, Axelrod is in for a long, hard slog against an opponent capable of nimbly returning serve and scoring points even on days that the Chicago campaign guru thought would belong to him.

As for the civility of the GOP tactics, any Democratic complaints about the heckling in Boston today would be hypocritical. Pro-Obama hecklers have dogged Romney since the beginning of the campaign. As Byron York notes in the Washington Examiner, Romney was practically shouted down by Democrat kibitzers in New Hampshire and earlier this year in Detroit. Last week, the president’s campaign even organized a high-ranking delegation of hecklers to try to derail a Romney event at a West Philadelphia charter school by dragooning Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter as well as District Attorney Seth Williams to show up and speak against the Republican candidate.

While Axelrod can expect things to go more smoothly on other days, the success of Romney’s staff in turning the tables on the Democrats proves they are capable of playing in the big leagues of national politics. That’s something McCain’s staff showed time and again in 2008 that they were not always capable of doing. The GOP effort will also not be handicapped by the enormous financial disadvantage that they labored under four years ago when the Obama campaign amassed a war chest that dwarfed McCain’s resources.

The Democrats still have the advantage of incumbency, a presidential candidate who is still a historic figure who appeals to the imagination of the public and the home cooking that the liberal press always gives the Democrats in general and Obama in particular. But the Boston and Solyndra events should impress upon Axelrod and his minions that they are in for the fight of their lives this year against opponents who are determined to beat him at his own games.

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GOP Rolls Out Attack Ad on Equity Failures

American Crossroads is out with a new ad today pushing back on President Obama’s Bain Capital attacks by assailing his own epic “public equity” failures, such as Solyndra and the auto bailout:

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American Crossroads is out with a new ad today pushing back on President Obama’s Bain Capital attacks by assailing his own epic “public equity” failures, such as Solyndra and the auto bailout:

So far, Mitt Romney has steered clear of negative attacks when responding to the Bain Capital criticism. Instead, he’s highlighted his record of achievement at Bain, and pointed out that even top Democrats and Obama campaign surrogates have called the president’s attacks on private equity unfair. But, as the American Crossroads ad shows, there’s also plenty of ammo to strike back with. While Bain Capital may not have succeeded at turning around every company it bought – such is the nature of the business – at least it wasn’t playing recklessly with taxpayer money. Kimberly Strassel argued this point in the Wall Street Journal last week:

All those Republicans grousing about the president’s attacks on private equity might instead be seizing on this beautiful point of contrast. Mr. Obama, after all, is no mere mortal president. Even as he’s been busy with the day job, he’s found time to moonlight as CEO-in-Chief of half the nation’s industry. Detroit, the energy sector, health care—he’s all over these guys like a cheap spreadsheet.

Like Mr. Romney, Mr. Obama has presided over bankruptcies, layoffs, lost pensions, run-ups in debt. Yet unlike Mr. Romney, Mr. Obama’s C-suite required billions in taxpayer dollars and subsidies, as well as mandates, regulations, union payoffs and moral hazard. Don’t like “vulture” capitalism? Check out the form the president’s had on offer these past three years: “crony” capitalism.

This is a line of attack the Romney campaign has been waiting to roll out for awhile. It looks like American Crossroads and other outside groups will be doing the heavy lifting for now, but Mike Allen reports that Romney is planning a targeted campaign against specific stimulus projects in individual states:

A senior aide tells us Mitt Romney plans to begin hitting specific stimulus projects as he travels, arguing that President Obama has actually subtracted jobs: “Were these investments the best return on tax dollars, or given for ideological reasons, to donors, for political reasons? He spent $800 billion of everybody’s money. How’d it work out? It was the mother of all earmarks, not a jobs plan. By wasting all of this money, you had the worst of all worlds: It destroyed confidence in the economy, and makes people less likely to borrow money. Dodd-Frank has been a disaster for the economy. Where are the steady hands? Who’s in charge of energy? Where’s the strong, confident voice on the economy?”

Smart points. The last thing the Obama campaign wants to bring up now is Solyndra, drawing attention to its failures on both energy and the economic stimulus. The more Romney talks about this, the more it seems like the Obama campaign severely underestimated its opposition.

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Barack Obama’s Childish Solyndra Game

Barack Obama is at it again.

The man who proudly and publicly touted his support of Solyndra is now trying to inartfully distance himself from it. Solyndra was once the poster child for the stimulus package; now we’re told to understand “this was not our program per se.” Oh yes it was, Mr. President. Oh yes it was.

The RNC has a short, devastating ad here.

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Barack Obama is at it again.

The man who proudly and publicly touted his support of Solyndra is now trying to inartfully distance himself from it. Solyndra was once the poster child for the stimulus package; now we’re told to understand “this was not our program per se.” Oh yes it was, Mr. President. Oh yes it was.

The RNC has a short, devastating ad here.

Perhaps this can be a “teachable moment” (to use a favorite Obama phrase) for the president, a chance to instruct Malia and Sasha on what it means to be a responsible adult. The lesson might go something like this: to be responsible means to be answerable, to be accountable, to accept the consequences of one’s actions rather than blame others (see Chapter 3 of The Book of Virtues for more).

The British philosopher Mary Midgley wrote that “the really excellent and central point of Existentialism [is] the acceptance of responsibility for being as we have made ourselves, the refusal to make bogus excuses.”

Barack Obama has shown the habit of making bogus excuses during his presidency. He blames everyone and everything — from his predecessor to tsunamis and earthquakes to the Arab Spring to Fox News to ATMs to the Chamber of Commerce to the founding fathers to the Tea Party to so much more — for his failures.

It is a tiresome game, and childish, too. It might be useful for Mr. Obama to consider these words from the inaugural address of America’s 44th president. “In the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.”

Amen to that.

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Obama’s Energy Secretary Gives Himself an A- On Gas Prices

How out of touch is this administration with the struggles of the average American? This out of touch:

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA): In controlling the cost of gasoline at the pump, do you give yourself an A-?
Secretary of Energy Steven Chu: Well, the tools that we have at our disposal are limited, but I would say I would give myself a little higher than that. Since I became Secretary of Energy I’ve been doing everything I can to get long-term solutions.

The statement, made today to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, will be general election gold for the GOP, played while images of rising gas prices across the country flicker across the screen.

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How out of touch is this administration with the struggles of the average American? This out of touch:

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA): In controlling the cost of gasoline at the pump, do you give yourself an A-?
Secretary of Energy Steven Chu: Well, the tools that we have at our disposal are limited, but I would say I would give myself a little higher than that. Since I became Secretary of Energy I’ve been doing everything I can to get long-term solutions.

The statement, made today to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, will be general election gold for the GOP, played while images of rising gas prices across the country flicker across the screen.

Secretary Chu stated that the tools at the administration’s disposal are limited and this is not completely devoid of truth. This administration cannot, as much as it might want to, order oil companies to lower the price of fuel. It cannot order states to lower taxes on purchases made at the pump. While this may be the case, the Secretary neglects to give himself credit for what his office has done to damage energy policy since taking office. Today Politico reports about the same hearing:

“After hundreds of thousands of pages of documents sent over, there’s not any whiff that this [Solyndra] was a politically influenced decision,” Chu told reporters Tuesday shortly after wrapping up House committee testimony on the controversial program. “That’s true of all the loans.”

The American people pay enough attention to notice that a major gas pipeline wasn’t approved as their fuel prices continue to skyrocket, they’ve seen millions of dollars set aside for “green energy” projects vanish into thin air.

My cousin, normally apolitical, has taken to posting Facebook pictures of his $100+ weekly trips to the pump. He may not notice many political events, but he’s noticed his fuel expenditures breaking his business’ bottom line over the last several months. Come November, most Americans will tell pollsters they care most about social issues, foreign policy and economic plans. When they go to pull the lever, however, they’ll be thinking about how much they just spent in gas to get to the polling station. And if the GOP plays their cards right, they’ll also be thinking about the President’s Energy Secretary that pats himself on the back for a job well done.

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Obama, the Self-Proclaimed Visionary

President Obama has received some well-deserved mockery for his factually inaccurate swipes at President Rutherford B. Hayes (yes, really) and Christopher Columbus’s contemporaneous critics. But his comments, made during his campaign-rally-esque energy address yesterday, are also revealing because of what they indicate about Obama himself. From his speech:

“Of course, we’ve heard this kind of thinking before.  If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail, they must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society.  … There always have been folks who are the naysayers and don’t believe in the future, and don’t believe in trying to do things differently.  One of my predecessors, Rutherford B. Hayes, reportedly said about the telephone, ‘It’s a great invention, but who would ever want to use one?’ That’s why he’s not on Mt. Rushmore because he’s looking backwards.  He’s not looking forwards.  He’s explaining why we can’t do something, instead of why we can do something.”

In Obama’s mind, his critics aren’t just wrong, they’re idiots. Obama, in contrast, is a grand visionary of epic capacity – the type of man who in the past would have ended up on Mt. Rushmore or captaining the voyage that led to the discovery of America.

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President Obama has received some well-deserved mockery for his factually inaccurate swipes at President Rutherford B. Hayes (yes, really) and Christopher Columbus’s contemporaneous critics. But his comments, made during his campaign-rally-esque energy address yesterday, are also revealing because of what they indicate about Obama himself. From his speech:

“Of course, we’ve heard this kind of thinking before.  If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail, they must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society.  … There always have been folks who are the naysayers and don’t believe in the future, and don’t believe in trying to do things differently.  One of my predecessors, Rutherford B. Hayes, reportedly said about the telephone, ‘It’s a great invention, but who would ever want to use one?’ That’s why he’s not on Mt. Rushmore because he’s looking backwards.  He’s not looking forwards.  He’s explaining why we can’t do something, instead of why we can do something.”

In Obama’s mind, his critics aren’t just wrong, they’re idiots. Obama, in contrast, is a grand visionary of epic capacity – the type of man who in the past would have ended up on Mt. Rushmore or captaining the voyage that led to the discovery of America.

And yet, where has this amazing foresight been in the years since Obama took office? His advisors claim they underestimated the impact of the economic crisis and miscalculated federal deficit projections. Obama’s attempts to mend the Israeli-Palestinian peace process only drove the two sides further apart, and his administration was caught off guard and woefully unprepared by the Arab Spring.

Then there’s energy policy. There are plenty of blunders to criticize, but let’s focus on a major one: the collapse of Solyndra. Here’s what Obama had to say when ABC News asked whether he regretted pouring over $500 million in taxpayer funds into a now-bankrupt company that he once lauded as the model of his green-jobs program:

“Hindsight is always 20/20,” Obama told “Good Morning America” anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview broadcast online Monday. “It went through the regular review process and people felt that it was a good bet.”

Hindsight may be 20/20, but you’d have to be blind to miss all the warning signs that Solyndra was a dangerous investment.

And this is the person we’re supposed to trust as the brilliant diviner of our energy future? For someone with a track record of placing losing bets, Obama really does put a remarkable amount of stock in his own visionary prowess. Then again, it’s always easier when you’re gambling with somebody else’s money.

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